An employee at the Florida Department of Education sent out an e-mail from her personal account to several people in an attempt to rally them to oppose the new draft of the state science standards because of the way evolution is now included. (Browse through previous posts on this blog for background on this hot issue.)
Here are the first two paragraphs of that e-mail. There are all sorts of problems with what she has to say, but can you spot the one thing that would make a newspaper reporter want to do a story?
My name is Charlie Carraway and I’m a member of Sopchoppy Southern Baptist Church, Sopchoppy , Florida , but I also work for the Florida Department of Education as the Director of the Office of Instructional Materials. That means I oversee the adoption process in the state, and I work in close proximity to the folks in the Office of Mathematics and Science, who have been in charge of the revision of the science standards. I say all of this, obviously, to give this e-mail credibility, so that you’ll continue to read and pass on the information I’m sharing with you.
A lot of people don’t understand “why all the fuss about the new science standards,” so I thought I would try to give more background information. The science standards that are in place now do not include the word Evolution anywhere. In fact, they are ambiguous enough that the districts and schools in Florida have been able to teach evolution as a theory along With other theories. In addition to that, if these new standards are adopted, the new instructional materials adopted and placed in our schools will be aligned to these standards, which means that our new materials will explicitly teach evolution – and not as a theory!!!
If you guessed that it’s because she is using her position to promote a personal view, then you are right! Here’s the newspaper article in the St. Petersburg Times about Ms. Carraway.
“It is inappropriate for any department employee to use their public position to advocate their personal positions,” department spokesman Tom Butler said Friday. “Ms. Carraway has been counseled.”
That means human resources personnel met with Carraway and warned her not to do this again, but she remains on the job.
The reporter goes on to mention an issue in Texas where a state Education Agency’s director of science was forced to resign for forwarding an e-mail about a talk being given concerning evolution and creationism. These two e-mail incidents are hardly similar, contrary to what the reporter claims. (Here’s a New York Times article on the Texas matter.) In Texas, the issue was taken to an extreme by the Education Agency, resulting in a professional losing her job for essentially doing her job: supporting science. Here in Florida, Carraway was only reprimanded, which was the appropriate reaction in this case. And Carraway obviously hasn’t a clue what she is talking about, which is painfully evident in her writing. “… which means that our new materials will explicitly teach evolution – and not as a theory!!!” Yes, Ms. Carraway, evolution will be taught as an established scientific theory, but you apparently don’t have any idea what that really means. Here’s a definition that might help you out:
“In everyday use, the word “theory” often means an untested hunch, or a guess without supporting evidence. But for scientists, a theory has nearly the opposite meaning. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts. The theory of gravitation, for instance, explains why apples fall from trees and astronauts float in space. Similarly, the theory of evolution explains why so many plants and animals–some very similar and some very different–exist on Earth now and in the past, as revealed by the fossil record.”
— American Museum of Natural History website.
There is something very important to mention here: Ms. Carraway is very likely not the only person in the Florida Department of Education trying to undermine science education. Perhaps the St. Petersburg Times or some other newspaper will follow up on this to see “how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Florida Citizens for Science has the entire text of Ms. Carraway’s e-mail. You can view it on the continuation page.